The Suns proved all those experts wrong and exceeded those expectations in epic fashion, winning all eight games in the bubble and finishing a heartbreaking half-game outside of the playoffs, giving their fans optimism they haven’t felt in a while.
The Suns are now one of the most intriguing teams heading into the offseason, as they will look to build around emerging superstar Devin Booker, who proved that he can be a franchise cornerstone after an impressive showing in the bubble.
The conundrum for Suns management is that they had all this success missing two starters in center Aron Baynes and forward Kelly Oubre Jr.
General manager James Jones has been outspoken about the Suns’ success in the bubble and will make offseason choices accordingly:
“We had a plan going into the bubble,” Jones said on Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta. “We’ll reevaluate it once the bubble is complete. But what it will force us to do is to reevaluate the success that we’ve had and try to determine how much of it was us and how much of it was circumstance.”
That bubble squad was successful partially because of how efficient the scoring was in the starting five.
Even with two starters out, a newfound lineup of Booker, Ricky Rubio, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and DeAndre Ayton outscored opponents by more than 15 points per 100 possessions.
The success of the lineup may have been just a flash in the plan, but if that lineup can produce at even close to those levels in 2020-21, welcoming Oubre back into the starting group might break up the good thing the Suns have going.
It may be hard to work Oubre back into the rotation at first. During the regular season, he was the second-leading scorer for a middling Suns team that lacked the excitement they showed in the bubble.
Oubre just had the best statistical season of his career and will have something to prove with the Suns going into a contract season, but his best role for the 2020-21 season may be coming off the bench.
With Oubre’s energy and ability to score in bursts, if he is able to accept a new role as the captain of the second unit, he could win Sixth Man of the Year with a playoff-bound Suns team.
That isn’t the only move the Suns need to make this season, as they still need to decide what to do with their free agents. Baynes is an unrestricted free agent, and key role players Dario Saric and Jevon Carter are restricted free agents.
It would be wise for the Suns to bring at least one of those three players back for depth, but getting rid of the other two would help free up space for a quality big to provide energy off the bench with Oubre.
An all-around athlete like Jerami Grant could be a great fit. He just had one of the most efficient regular seasons of his career, and he could give the Suns another quality defender. Grant has a $9.3 million player option for 2020-21, but he could look to get a raise by opting out.
The Suns have a key offseason ahead of them. With as talented as the Western Conference is, they need to make these next few months count.
Tinkering around and making these moves — moving Oubre to the bench, cutting ties with some free agents, and adding a solid defensive big like Grant — could help the Suns make the playoffs for the first time in Devin Booker’s young yet promising career.